Summer is filled with so many things for families and children – summer camp, beaches, swimming pools, vacations. But the hot, lazy days can also find parents or caregivers at a loss to stimulate young minds during their down time. Here’s where craft time can come in.

It’s a fact that children love to use their hands. Give a kid a box of crayons and watch what ensues. In my music teaching, arts and crafts is just as important as teaching the material. As children are naturally creative and curious, giving them a new outlet is imperative to their development and imagination.

This summer I taught a lesson to a small group of 2-year-olds on the instruments in the percussion family: drums, tambourines, maracas, castanets, wood blocks. Breaking up instruments into ‘families’ helps children to identify with what they are holding in their hands. One child in particular even held up a maraca in one hand and a bongo drum in the other and called them “second cousins.” After a few minutes of handling these simple shakers and drums, I handed out materials for us to create our very own percussion instrument: a shaker that they could make themselves – with a little bit of adult help. This is an excellent way to bring music into your home and bond with your children while fostering their creativity and natural talent. I recommend it to everyone as a fun project!

You will need two sturdy paper plates. I use the 6” kinds for little hands, but older children or the more mature could handle larger sizes – that have a bit of a lip around the edges. Additionally, you will need a stapler (this is where the adults come in) and something to fill the shaker with. Rice works well, but I prefer dry beans as they are more bulky and won’t slip through the cracks of the plates once they are assembled. After that, all you need is coloring and decorating materials. Here is where you can get funky: using markers, crayons, finger paints, puffy paint, stickers…the options are endless!

Let your child decorate the outside of both plates. Encourage them to be colorful and thorough. I used stickers from Michael’s with a music theme, and one of my 2-year-olds even drew a few rudimentary musical notes, but your child may prefer a different theme. After they have finished their artwork, have them carefully pour a bit of dried beans on the inside of one plate. Place the second plate upside down on top – with the artwork facing out – so the beans have space to move around inside. Staple the edges together and voila! Your child has created their very own musical instrument.

I hope this craft can help in planning some family activities this summer. Even if your child is not particularly musical, it’s a fun way for him or her to use their hands and imagination. I love to play music in the background that has a solid drumbeat and incorporates the maracas. “Dora the Explorer” has a few wonderful songs – including “Oye Como Va” by Santana that works well for this purpose. Enjoy the rest of your summertime!

Here are some websites with more ideas for Paper Plate Crafts:

Photo credit: unsplash-logoSenjuti Kundu

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